THE NOBLE DEMOCRACIESSCRAPS OF PAPER; ATROCITIES
THE German violation of Belgium was from the first the leading topic in the fear-propaganda of ourselves and our allies. The lesson sought to be drawn from it was that the Kaisers government was particularly untrustworthy and dishonorable, and that the Germanseither the German people, the German government, or the German military cliquewere particularly savage, ruthless, and inhuman. By its breach of the Treaty of 1839, the Kaisers government had proved that its word could never be trusted. By the atrocities incident to the military occupation, the German had proved himself a Hun. Therefore, those governments that were incapable of profaning their pledged word, those nations whose military forces were incapable of outrage upon civil populations, those great powers which were incapable of transgressing the sovereignty of their weaker neighbors, must, for their own ultimate safetybut especially for the sake of humanityband themselves into a League of Honor to crush the offending government and to humiliate, punish, and reform the offending people.
But where is the nation that has proven itself morally fit to reform the Hun ? Where is the League of Honor ? Where is the material for any such league ? Where is the government so without sin that it can claim the right to cast the first stone ?
To some it may seem superfluous to discuss the point farther. But the peace settlement is based upon the purity-versus-depravity theory, and is defensible only under it. Moreover, notwithstanding admissions as to the imperfections of the peace settlement, every effort has been put forth to perpetuate the purity-versus-depravity theory in the popular mind as an axiom, never to be questioned or reexamined. So intensive was the work of the fear-propagandists that, after every other excuse for Americas war has lost its force, there is danger that millions of Americans may still remain under the misapprehension that we saved America and humanity from a power of singular wickedness, which actually entertained a scheme of world conquest and stood in a fair way to realize it.
England, Prussia, and other countries united in a treaty guaranteeing the neutrality of Belgium. Prussia violated the treaty and England declared war, claiming to do so purely on principle, in defense of the sacredness of treaties and the rights of weak nations. But England, France, Russia, and Japan united in treaties guaranteeing the neutrality of Korea. Japan invaded Korea, as Germany invaded Belgium, compelled Korea to declare war on Russia, and afterwards made Korea a permanent dependency of Japan. The king of Korea objected, appealed to both England and Franceand, for that matter, to one Theodore Roosevelt, then President of the United Statesto intervene to preserve the integrity of Korea. Not one of the three gave any help to Korea. The principle was exactly the same as in the case of Belgium. Why, then, did England not go to war on principle against Japan ?
England, France, and other countries united in a treaty guaranteeing the integrity and independence of the Turkish Empire. But England invaded Egypt, an integral part of the Turkish Empire, against the wishes of the Turkish government, conquered Egypt, and ultimately annexed it, bribing France with Morocco to keep still about the matter.
During the Boer War, the British government insisted on violating the neutrality of Portugal, by marching troops across Portuguese East Africa, over the protest of the Portuguese government, in precisely the same way that Germany violated the neutrality of Belgium in 1914.
England, France, America, Germany, and other countries united in a treaty, in 1906, known as the Act of Algeciras, guaranteeing the neutrality and integrity of the empire of Morocco. Meanwhile, England, France, and Spain, had entered into secret agreements for the partition of Morocco between France and Spain. In 1907, France sent an army into Morocco, which was never withdrawn. France destroyed the neutrality and integrity of Morocco by armed force, ultimately dividing the country with Spain. Instead of declaring war on France and Spain, England gave them her support and protection. Nor did America protest against the tearing up of the Moroccan scrap of paper. The only government to protest was the government of the Kaiser, whose word, President Wilson solemnly informed us, we cannot take as ... a guarantee of anything that is to endure, because, forsooth, They observe no covenants !
England and Russia, in the Entente of 1907, united to guarantee the integrity and independence of Persia. At the same time, they secretly bargained to divide Persia between them. With the consent and support of England, Russia sent an army into Persia, overturned the existing government, destroyed the integrity and independence of Persia, and was still in control of Persia by means of an army of occupation when noble England declared war upon Germany for violating the neutrality of Belgium.
America and England, in 1850, united in a treatythe Clayton-Bulwer Treatyagreeing never, either of them, to assume or exercise any dominion over Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Mosquito Coast, or any part of Central America. But England violated this treaty at the beginning, by refusing to give up her protectorate over the Mosquito Coast. This was also in violation of the Monroe Doctrine. Two years later, England again violated both the treaty and the Monroe Doctrine, as well as the sovereignty of the republic of Honduras, by declaring the Bay Islands a British colony, after a military occupation of those islands. Later, England again violated both the treaty and the Monroe Doctrine by asserting sovereignty over British Honduras, which was formally made a British colony in 1862. In 1859, England relinquished control over the Mosquito Coast and the Bay Islands, but the retention of British Honduras remains a permanent violation both of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty and of the Monroe Doctrine. In due course, America also violated the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, by the assumption and exercise of dominion over Panama, the permanent occupation of Nicaragua, the control of its government, and the acquisition from Nicaragua of the Corn Islands.
Even Belgiumirony of history !has a scrap of paper in its closet. In 1885, England, France, Germany, and other countries, united in a treaty, known as the Berlin Act, guaranteeing the neutrality and integrity of the Congo Free State. The kingdom of Belgium also promised to observe this treaty. But in 1908, Belgium formally annexed the Congo Free State, without the consent of any of the signatory powers, and over the protest of some of them. Why did not the British government declare war upon Belgium in defense of the sacredness of treaties ?
The same righteous government which, in 1914, told the world it declared war against Germany solely on principle, because Germany tore up the Treaty of 1839, was in power in England in 1908, when Belgium tore up the Treaty of 1885the same party, the same cabinet, largely, the same Foreign Secretary. It was also in power in England when France tore up the Treaty of 1906, when England and Russia together tore up the Treaty of 1907, and when the British government completed the mutilation of the Treaty of 1878 by the formal annexation of Egypt.
Every powerful government which, at one time or another, virtuously proclaimed its duty to assist in crushing Germany because of the German scrap of paper, had its own scraps of paper, not one, but many, and at least one scrap of paper paralleling in all essentials the German scrap of paper. Every one, even, acquired scraps of paper during the very war whose purpose, in part, was asserted to be to mete out punishment for the German scrap of paper.
International law, as it was known at the beginning of 1914, had, in toto, either been fabricated in treaties or acknowledged in treaties. In large part, these treaties were thrown overboard by the belligerents, not merely as they applied to enemies but as they applied to neutrals. Between 1914 and 1918, every belligerent assisted in tearing up international law and the treaties acknowledging international law. The accumulation of this great collection of paper scraps did not in every case involve, as in Belgium, violation of the territorial integrity of a neutral. But in at least three notable cases it did, those of China, Greece and Russia.
The territory of every country on earth, strong or weak, is guaranteed by some treaty, convention, or paper, to which every great government associated in the war against Germany has put its signature. An article that was generally adopted at the second Hague Conference, for example, reads : The territory of neutral powers is inviolable. Another reads : Belligerents are forbidden to move troops or convoys of either munitions of war or supplies across the territory of a neutral power. These had already become commonplaces of international law. Every nation on earth not at war with China, Greece and Russia was, therefore, under precisely the same obligation to respect the territory of China, Greece, and Russia as Germany was, to respect the territory of Belgium.
But Japan violated the territory of China, over the protest of the Chinese government, marching its forces through China in order to get at the German dependency of Kiao-Chau, exactly as Germany violated the territory of Belgium in order to get at France. England, France, Russia and Italy violated the territory of Greece, over the protest of the Greek government, and by a series of military and naval aggressions, overturned the Greek government, and installed a new government, forcing Greece to declare war against Germany. And, after Russia became a neutral, England, France, Japan and the United States violated the territory of Russia, over the protest of the Russian government, made war on the Russian government, and attempted to assist to power in Russia a political aggregation more favorable to the Allied cause.
Much was made of the fact that the German government, when about to violate Belgium, admitted to the world that it was about to commit a wrong. We commit exactly the same wrong, but pretend that we are doing right. We double our own crime by hypocrisy.
By the very nature of things, nothing is more certain of embellishment, from their source to their final appearance in the form of hate-propaganda, than stories of war atrocities. The high state of excitement of the victims, their passion, fear, and resentment, render exaggeration inevitable, even though it may be unconscious. Passion and self-interest, with the certainty that disproof is next to impossible, furnish the most powerful conceivable incentive to outright fabrication.
I do not wish to be understood as suggesting that there were no atrocities whatever in Belgium. I do wish to be understood as holding that nothing occurred revealing singular depravity on the part of the Germans. The history of our allies, recent and remote, is burdened with atrocities.
British historians frequently refer to the practice of binding Sepoys to the mouths of cannon and blowing them to fragments, indulged in by British officers in the early days of the subjugation of India. Mass murder, wholesale hangings, extermination of entire communities, starvation on a large scalethese were but commonplaces in the conquest of India, which is not yet completed.
Much of the same can be said of Egypt. The bombardment of Alexandria, in 1882, like the bombardment of Canton, China, in 1885, was a cold-blooded atrocity perpetrated upon an unoffending and practically defenseless people. The British control is studded with British atrocities, which continue to this writing.
In Bloemfontein, South Africa, the subjugated Boers erected a monument in memory of 26,663 women and children who died in British concentration camps in the two years of the Boer Warmurdered by deliberate starvation and neglect. The British in South Africa could not urge the extenuating circumstances which existed in the occupied zone of France, where non-combatants were underfed by the Germans; they were not themselves subject to a starvation blockade.
In 1907, in the sovereign state of Morocco, the population of the town of Casablanca resisted the efforts of a French-Spanish syndicate to build a railroad line through the local cemetery. A collision occurred between the population and the workmen, and the latter were driven away. Whereupon French troops bombarded the defenseless town with artillery, killing thousands of men, women, and children. This outrage served the French purpose to penetrate farther and farther into Morocco, under the pretense of protecting French lives and property, with the ultimate view of annexing the country.
Even Belgium had its own particular and special Belgium. Under the Belgian rule in the Congo Free State, according to a report published in 1904 by the British Foreign Office, in one district the population was reduced in six years from five thousand to six hundred. In six months on the Momboya River the lowest estimate of people killed or mutilated by having their right hand cut off was six thousand, and this did not include the women and children, whom the soldiers were instructed to kill with the butt of their rifles so as not to waste cartridges. (The New Map of Africa, by Herbert Adams Gibbons, p. 152.)
Interested Belgians, at the time, held that the various investigations of the Congo atrocities were either conducted or inspired by the British government, as a means to preparing the way for taking over the Congo Free State, and its rich rubber resources, for the benefit of British gentlemen. The aforementioned official British report was published with an air of great sanctity. Eight years later the world learned, from other and equally reliable reports, that Britons were employing similar methods in the rubber harvests of Putamayo, Peru.
Concurrently, similar atrocities were being perpetrated by Frenchmen in the French Congo. The same author recounts an incident related by a French investigation commission :
At Bangui, the commission found that the foremen of the companies exercised pressure upon the blacks to bring in rubber by seizing their women and children, and holding them as hostages until the allotted quota was brought to the companys compound. In 1904, at Bangui, one concessions company, which made a practice of this barbarous hostage system, shut up in a small hut sixty-eight women and children, without air and water and food enough to keep them alive. The crime happened to be discovered by a young French physician. He demanded their release. Forty-five women and two children were found dead. Only thirteen women and eight children were still alive. Some of them died in spite of all the exertions of their liberator. The case could not have been unique. It was discovered only because it happened to be on the path of travelers.
In none of these cases did the government of the noble democracy concerned take action against the perpetrators of these deeds.
We also have our black pages of atrocity. How many Americans remember that Shermans march to the sea was for the avowed purpose of starving the Confederacy, including the civil population ? In the Philippines we at times wiped out whole villages, without regard to age or sex. As late as 1913, it was reported that, in the campaign against the Moros, General Pershings soldiers killed 196 women and 340 children in one days fighting. In 1920 we learned from official sources that, in Haiti, our marines had killed 3,250 natives, while losing only thirteen of their number. The figures justify the term indiscriminate killings, employed by an American major general. This is not war, but massacre.
Not only were opponents of the American occupation hunted down and killed, but scores were murdered after being taken prisoner. Scores of Haitians who had not resisted the occupation in a military way were killed by our marines for trying to escape from enforced labor upon the public roads. Gatherings of Haitians were bombed from airplanes, and Haitian and Santo Domingan prisoners were subjected to tortures of the most savage and revolting nature, according to testimony given to a Senate committee in the fall of 1921.
As for Nicaragua, the Confidential Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States Senate, 63rd Congress, Second Session, reveals a number of atrocities which, if generally known, ought to shame into whispers any mention we may need to make of unpleasant events in Belgium.
October 3, 1912, Colonel J.H. Pendleton, U.S.N., in command of 2,000 marines, stormed the heights of Coyotepe, killing fifty Nicaraguan Liberals under command of General Benjamin F. Zeledon. Having reduced by this assault the defenses of the city of Masaya, Colonel Pendleton stood by while the Diaz contingent, for whom he was fighting, proceeded to execute Zeledon and then to stage a massacre in the undefended city. This massacre of unarmed men, women and children, which Pendleton permitted and for which the great government of the United States must forever stand responsible, is described by an eye-witness, page 420, of the secret government document, as follows :
I took a photograph of Colonel Pendleton standing on top of the hill with his men. When this happened the Nicaraguan soldiers, who had been standing by ... sailed into the town of Masaya, which lies under the brow of the hill. They massacred everybody they could lay their hands on, and the women and children of the town fled into the church of Masaya, and these Nicaraguans, or government soldiers, brought up a field piece, and they fired the door of the church down, and they brought up two machine guns and fired into these people. There must have been 300 or 400 people all crowded into that church. ... They killed about 250 people right there in the church. They simply mowed them down with the machine gun. Then they fell upon the rest of the inhabitants. They looted everything there, and they simply tore that town to pieces. It was the worst looking horrible wreck I ever saw, and the dead were littered all over it.
The Belgians, at least, had formal warning of the German invasion. But the population of Vera Cruz, Mexico, had no warning whatever. The government of the United States had not declared war on Mexico, nor upon the city of Vera Cruz. In Europe a desperate struggle of nations was going on. But on April 21, 1914, the United States was in no danger of attack. The life of no American was at stake. Nevertheless, we made an aggressive war upon a practically defenseless city, and entirely without warning to the population thereof. Not a civilian in Vera Cruz had any idea that the Americans were going to attack. When the booming of the guns began, the children were let out of school, and ran panic-stricken for their homes. By that time the invaders were running amuck through the city. At least ten children and six women were shot to death in the streets by our gallant lads.
The Mexicans consider our attack upon, and occupation of, Vera Cruz an American Lusitania and an American Belgium rolled into one. Our punitive expedition they remember with little less horror. During that expedition, according to our own official reports and our own newspaper correspondents, our heroic soldiers, on one occasion, surprised, and massacred sixty Mexicans, without giving them an opportunity to surrender. On another occasion they surprised, and massacred, forty unarmed Mexicans, some of whom were asleep and some of whom were naked, swimming in a pool. On a third occasion, they fired into a civilian mob, killing forty.
Meanwhile, on the American side of the line, unoffending and defenseless Mexicans were murdered by border rangers, local police officers, or others intent upon making the Mexicans pay for Villas raid, or making this a white mans country. According to a report of an investigator appointed by Colonel H.J. Slocum, U.S.N., rendered February 12, 1918, the number of victims thus sacrificed in southwest Texas by such peace officers assuming the powers of a court of justice will probably never be known, though I understand that attorney F.C. Pierce holds a list of names of nearly three hundred.
Coming down to the great war, the absence of Allied atrocities upon a civilian population upon the western front is explained by the fact that the Allies had no enemy population to deal with. Atrocities upon enemy combatants were perpetrated on both sides. On returning from Europe, Herbert L. Pratt, vice-president of the Standard Oil Company and a Y.M.C.A. worker, declared in a published interview (June 2, 1918) that : The Americans no longer are bringing in prisoners in small groups. They are shooting the Germans down like rats.
Atrocities of this kind were defended on the ground that the Germans had committed atrocities quite as bad. The hate-propaganda was necessary not only at home, but on the battle front also. We had to sermonize our soldiers on hatred before they entered the trenches, for fear they might consider the Germans fellow creaturesfor fear they might not take sufficient pleasure in mutilating the Germans. We had to put our own brave boys in the savage state that we told them the Germans were in. We had to repeat to them the old lie that is told in all wars, that the enemy take no prisoners.
Upon the battlefield, stories of mutilation and outrage were readily believed and held to justify any outrage. We excused our poisoned gas and our air raids on open towns only on the ground that our enemies had employed such means of warfare first. But British aviators bombed noncombatants both of India and Afghanistan, where no pretense of retaliation could be offered, and this after German savagery had been crushed.
For Germans to rejoice over the sinking of the Lusitania, of greater value to Britain than any warship, was savagery, but for Britons to rejoice at the stunting of German babies, of no use whatever in that particular war, was patriotism. In an interview published in the Chicago Tribune, February 14, 1917, Sir Gilbert Parker was reported as saying : German boys and girls of to-day, who are to be the future manhood and womanhood of Germany, are being deprived of those foods necessary to proper growth and sustenance. And I am glad of it.
In speaking to the House of Commons, December 20, 1917, Lloyd George exulted thus :
We must not imagine that the enemy has not had his difficulties. We had proof of that the other day, when facts were given to us as to the deteriorated physical quality of the German workers as a result of the blockade imposed by the British navy. The German worker have so deteriorated that the output of Germany per man has gone down by something like thirty-three per cent., compared with the first year of the war.
In an interview with the Associated Press, May 1, 1919, Professor Abderhalden, a noted physiologist who had been making an investigation of German health conditions, asserted that to date a million persons, chiefly children, were dead as a result of the Allied hunger blockade, and that the survivors averaged a loss of twenty per cent. in weight. Our hunger blockade, even while the war went on, was an atrocity against our enemies beside which the submarine atrocity is not to be mentioned. How much greater an atrocity it was after our enemies were no longer resisting us ! And how much greater an atrocity against neutrals, who never wished to fight us. First, our noble allies starved Greecethe entire population, civil and military, old and young, male and femaleas a means to compelling that country to abandon neutrality and assist them in the war. Afterwards we starved Russia and Hungary. We starved hundreds of thousands of Russians, especially women and children, and for no other reason than that our government did not approve of the Soviet Government. We had expressed horror at the enforced labor of Belgians behind the Allied lines, but at Archangel we forced unwilling Russians to labor behind the Allied lines. More than that, we conscripted them for service against their own people, and, on occasion, murdered them in cold blood when they refused to fight.
The effect of our starvation blockade was even more disastrous upon the population of Hungary. Testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee, January 15, 1920, Secretary of War Baker presented a summary of infantile death rates per thousand in the city of Budapest, for the first six months of 1919, as follows : January, 812; February, 966; March, 784; April, 577; May, 567; June, 635. For this mass murder of babies we share responsibility with our allies.
Whatever may be said of military heroism, war also brings out the worst in human nature, which is everywhere approximately the same. But even in peace times, atrocities are constantly occurring in every large community. America lynched 67 persons in 1918, of whom four were white men and five colored women, and in 1919 this record was surpassed. If all the brutal assaults, arsons, murders, rapes, unlawful imprisonments, and tortures, perpetrated upon defenseless persons in the United States of America, by men in the uniform of the United States, by State militiamen, by the police, and others wearing the badge of authority, by private detectives, by corporation gunmen, and by individuals, during the same period in which Germany occupied Belgiumif all these were brought together and set forth in their most revolting details, it may be that they would fill a book upon American atrocities in peace time, not so vastly different from our books upon German atrocities in war time.
The only atrocity alleged against the Germans that is not equalled or surpassed by the atrocities of ourselves and our allies is found in the rape squad stories, which depict the violation of womanhood as an official part of the German warfare. But Sir Philip Gibbs, the celebrated British correspondent (Now It Can Be Told, p. 456), says :
On the whole it seemed that they [the Germans] had not misused the women. I heard no tales of actual atrocity, though some of brutal passion. But many women shrugged their shoulders when I questioned them about this and said : They [the Germans] had no need to use violence in their way of love-making. There were many volunteers.
With many Americans the rape squad stories have no doubt long since gone into the same class as our official expose of Lenin as an agent of the German autocracy, and our yarn about the nationalization of women by the Soviet Government. To those who are still inclined to credit them there is just one thing to say : If our official propagandists, beginning with the President and the Secretary of State, had the effrontery to put forward deliberate, malicious, monstrous, and easily provable distortionssuch as the story of Germanys broken submarine promises, the tale of a German-Mexican plot to attack America, the allegation of our right under international law to confiscate the Dutch shipsto what extent can we credit the dictum of these gentlemen upon matters which are largely incapable of proof or disproof ?
When the armistice was signed, a good many Americans expressed disappointment. Several million Germans had been killed, but that was not enough to satisfy them. Rather than give immediate peace to a people that was seeking peace on our terms, they were willing to sacrifice a few thousand more Americans, for the sake of a final massacre of Germans. The lesson of the wars atrocities is that war makes savages of men of whatever blood or nation, and of whatever degree of culture. The lesson is that war atrocities cannot be banished from the earth by exterminating or punishing Germans, but only by banishing war itself.
1 This report is printed in full in the April, 1918, Mexican Review, published at Washington, D.C.
2 The Glasgow Forward seems to have proven that the Entente Allies were first both in the use of poison gas and in bombing civilian populations from the sky.
THE NOBLE DEMOCRACIES AND SMALL NATIONS
BELGIUM was the most vulnerable spot in Germanys moral armor, and the enemies of Germany were quick to take full advantage of it. In Belgium the British government found the casus belli that it was bound to find somewhere, and around Belgium was built its entire scheme of war propaganda. The scrap of paper incident involved not only the principle of the sacredness of treaties, but the more fundamental principle of the equal and absolute sovereignty of all nations. So England, in entering the arena professedly in defense of the sacredness of treaties, also proclaimed itself the worlds heavyweight champion of weak nations. The psychological step to the issue of democracy versus autocracy was short. Soon, every government associated in the war against Germany, with the possible exception of that of the Czareven Rumania, the most feudal country in Europe; even Japanwas informing the world in thunderous tones that it had unsheathed the sword in defense of world democracy, and the rights of weak nations.
In due course, our own government, as soon as it had succeeded in bringing us to the certainty of war on the submarine issue, raised the cry quite as loudly as any of its allies. In the war message, the President announced that we would fight for the privilege of men everywhere to choose their own way of life and obedience ... for democracy ... for the rights and liberties of small nations. And thereafter a large share of our own propaganda was devoted to inculcating the notion that the only way to do this was to destroy the existing government of Germany; that we had thrown in our lot with England, France, Italy, and Japan, because they, like ourselves, were protectors of small nations; that our League of Honor actually represented the privilege of men everywhere to choose their own way of life and obedience, while Germany represented aggression, conquest, and exploitation in the worlds affairs.
By their works ye shall know them. In works our League of Honor was a distinctly greater offender against the principles which it professed to champion than was the government that it destroyed, even during the war itself, as has been pointed out, while before the war the preponderance of its offenses against world democracy is overwhelming.
The supremacy of our most powerful ally in the worlds affairs is based upon supremacy in sea power. That supremacy was attained only after a long series of aggressive wars extending over a century and a half, in which the Spanish, Dutch, and French navies were swept from the seas. To these, in 1807, the Danish navy was added in a single stroke. On a mere suspicion that Denmark intended to join with France and Russia against England and Sweden, the British fleet was sent into the Baltic Sea, under specific assurance that it was not intended as a menace to Denmark. Once there, the British government suddenly demanded the surrender of the entire Danish fleet. On receipt of a refusal, a British force was landed, Copenhagen was bombarded and burned, and the Danish fleet became by conquest the property of Great Britain.
The boast that the sun never sets on the British flag is as true as the other boast that Britannia rules the waves. The British Empire, even before its latest vast acquisitions, embraced nearly one-fourth of the land surface of the earth, fully one-fourth of its productive surface, the best harbors overseas, and the most commanding positions, commercially and strategically. Nearly all of this vast empire was acquired by war, either upon Englands European neighbors, or upon the native peoples, or upon both.
The Portuguese and the Dutch were the first Europeans in India. England acquired India by war, first upon the Dutch, second upon the French, third upon the native peoples.
The Dutch were first in South Africa. England took Cape Colony in war from Holland, abolished by force the republic of Natal, and completed the conquest in the twentieth century by cutting down those two small nations, the republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State.
France colonized Canada. Holland colonized New Fork. Both fell to England as spoils of war. Later, France sold its Louisiana territory to the young republic of the United States to prevent it from being taken in war by Britain. The large island of Malta was taken from the French. Gibraltar, Spain, was taken and kept simply because the British liked its commanding position. Jamaica was wrested from Spain. Other British possessions in the western hemisphere were either taken, by conquest, from Spain or held in defiance of the claims of the American republics.
The foundations of British world empire were laid, in other centuries, upon aggression. But in the enlightened twentieth century, democratic England has been quite as ready to increase her dominion by war as in what we are wont to pretend was a more immoral age.
In building up the myth that England represents the principle of democracy, great emphasis was laid upon the degree of self-government existing in certain British colonies, such as Canada and Australia. But this sort of self-government is enjoyed by less than five per cent. of the people living under the British flag outside of the British Isles. The other ninety-five per cent. are governed by an official bureaucracy that imposes its will everywhere by force. More than 300,000,000 British subjects enjoy no self-government worthy of the name, and are kept under the British flag only by the constant exercise of military power.
The British ruling class has as little regard for democracy, self-determination, the rights of small nations, the sovereignty of weak peoples, without the British Empire as within. Where England has appeared to champion a small nation against a larger, a selfish British purpose has almost invariably been evident, usually the purpose to save the victim for ultimate British consumption, or to be parceled out among other consumers of small nations at some later date for favors rendered.
This is exemplified in Englands dealings with Turkey and Russia. The British imagination created the German peril. The British have always had a bugaboo. When the French bugaboo was laid, early in the nineteenth century, Russia became the British bugaboo. As the main feature of British foreign policy in the twentieth century was to isolate Germany, so the main feature of British foreign policy throughout most of the nineteenth century was to curb Russia. Any enlargement of Russian power was an affront to England. Any Russian ambition for expansion was an ambition of autocracy to conquer the world. British opposition to Russian expansion was unselfish championship of world democracy and the rights of small nations. It was Britains duty, as the worlds trustee of liberty, to thwart the Russian desire for a warm seaport, even to resist Russian expansion in the direction of such a seaport. If war resulted, very well, the Czar would be the aggressor; England would be fighting in self-defense.
So immaculate England became the protector of the Turk. In relation to Russia, Turkey was a small nation; England was championing a small nation. But in relation to Turkey, Bulgaria, Armenia, and the other Christian peoples, struggling for independence from Moslem rule, were small nations. In championing Turkey, England effectively stood between these subject peoples and independence. Democratic England became a co-oppressor with the Turk of the most oppressed peoples in Europe, a responsible party to the periodical massacres in Turkeys Christian provinces. At the Congress of Berlin, it was the British government that insisted that two-thirds of bleeding Bulgaria be handed back to Moslem oppression.
As the price of protecting the Turk, England took the island of Cyprus. Had racial demands been considered, Cyprus would have gone to Greece. England was now ready to begin the acquisition of Egypt also. In the 30s Egypt had won its independence from the Sultan and established sovereignty over Syria besides. But in accordance with its policy of protecting the Turk, England had driven the Egyptian forces out of Syria and compelled Egypt to acknowledge the suzerainty of the Sultan and pay the latter an annual tribute. In 1875, by a species of treachery, we find England nosing France out of control of the Suez Canal. After this, England shouldered France out of the way and into Egypt.
British control over both entrances to the Mediterranean being doubly secured by the occupation of Egypt, democracy no longer so pressingly required either that the Turk be protected or that the Czar be curbed. Englands ally in the east, Japan, beat Russia in a quarrel over Manchuria, and the Czar turned about to face a revolution at home. It was a promising day for democracy. The worlds greatest autocracy was tottering. The Russian world peril, so far as it was a reality, was about to be laid in the only way that perils of the sort can be permanently laidby fundamental reforms brought about from within.
But, unfortunately, England had meanwhile forgotten the Russian peril and discovered the German peril. So, over the frantic appeals of the revolutionary leaders, England and France loaned the Czar the cash which alone enabled him to stamp out the revolution. Thus was the Russian autocracy kept alive long enough to assist England and France in the great war that was even then preparingthe war for the privilege of men everywhere to choose their own way of life and obedience !
While protecting the Turk, England had also stood forth as protector of the small nation, Persia. But suddenly (in 1907), world democracy of the British flavor no longer required that Persia have rights or even existence. The time had arrived for another good British bargain. So Persia went upon the block, and with Persia another small nation which England had been protecting against Russia, Afghanistan. Foreign Secretary Grey divided Persia with his good friend, the Czar, giving the Czar the larger portion, while the latter acknowledged Englands right to choose the way of life and obedience of the inhabitants of Afghanistan.
When the Czar was trying to work his way south in the 70s, England and Austria had stood together against him. England and Austria were comrades in the good cause of democracy. Even as late as October 8, 1912, in spite of waning friendship for the Turk, and warming friendship for the Czar, the integrity of the Turkish Empire was of more importance to England than self-determination of Turkeys subject peoples. On that date a note, signed by all the powers, but emanating from the British Foreign Office, was delivered to the various members of the Balkan alliance, warning them against a war with Turkey, declaring that :
If, in spite of this note, war does break out between the Balkan states and the Ottoman Empire, the powers will not admit, at the end of the conflict, any modification of the territorial status quo in European Turkey.
But, by 1914, the rights of the small nation, Serbia, had suddenly become of vast importance to democracy. British treachery had driven Turkey into the arms of Germany. Wherefore, democracy not only no longer required the protection of the Turk, but was ready to look on complacently while the Czar proceeded on his way to Constantinople. So it happened that, while virtuous England found her casus belli in the scrapping of the Treaty of 1839, she agreed to the final pulverization of the Treaty of 1878; Constantinople was promised the Russian autocracy as its share of the spoils in the great world struggle for the rights of weak nations and the sacredness of treaties !
Africa, the second largest continent, has been divided up like a great English plum pudding, most of it since the beginning of the twentieth century. The division was accomplished by the tearing up of treaties, by the profanation of official pledges, by deliberate deception of home electorates, by mass murder, and by assassination of small nations upon their own doorsteps.
By the year 1914, but two small nations had survived the cannibal invasion from Europe; insignificant Liberia, greatly shrunken, not really independent, but an unacknowledged protectorate of the United States; Abyssinia, which had successfully resisted Italy, and whose continued existence was due to mutual jealousies among her would-be butcherers. Between them Liberia and Abyssinia held less than three and one-half per cent. of the area and but two and one-half per cent. of the population of the great continent of Africa.
England, France, Italy, Spain, and to a lesser degree, Germany, had all engaged in wars of conquest, sometimes very bloody and prolonged, upon the weak nations of Africa. Among these European aggressors there had been disputes innumerable. Italy had fought another European power, Turkey. There had been bad blood all around. At least once, England and France were on the verge of war with one another. At least twice, a crisis between England and France, on one side, and Germany on the other, brought all Europe to the verge of war.
In the division of the African plum pudding, England received one-third, France one-fourth. England got the best and juiciest plums, France the second best. Italy was blessed with the third best portion. Spain got a plum or two. Germany was served some underdone portions, with the plums carefully removed. In the spilling of human blood, democratic France divided honors with England. Italy was third, Spain fourth. The Hun killed least of all.
Over a longer period, a similar division to that of Africa has been going on in the largest continent, Asia, although it is not yet as nearly completed. Here, as in Africa, England acquired the choicest plums. Not far behind England are Russia and Japan, though democratic France is not without her Asiatic tidbits. The partition of Asia has been going on more rapidly in the twentieth century than ever before. At China, the great powers have been picking like vultures. The year 1914 found England dominant in Asia, as in Africasupreme in the middle east, joining control with Japan in the far east, partner with the Czar in the near east, disputing German entrance into affairs in that quarter.
The garroting of small nations by large ones has proceeded more rapidly during the past quarter of a century than at any previous period in the worlds history. Within a single generation, England, France, Russia, Italy, Germany, and Japan acquired new territory aggregating more than both the North and South American continents. According to Rear-Admiral French E. Chadwick, U.S.N., retired, (Speech before Lawyers Club of New York, February, 1917), in that period Great Britain expanded to the extent of 6,750,000 miles; France, 3,500,000; Russia, 2,000,000; Germany, 1,000,000. Every mile of this 13,250,000 was acquired by some form of aggression.
In the forty-four years previous to 1914throughout the entire period of the activity and influence of the men who, we were told, plotted world conquest by warGermany engaged in war less than any of the other countries named, including our own.
Do, then, the German aggressions reveal a more depraved purpose than the aggressions of her enemies ? What is the purpose of aggression in modern times ?